You Can Have One, But You Can't Have Both

Interesting thought here from David Schraub at The Debate Link [via Amp]:

[T]here is a very predictable media narrative that will form if two members of politically underrepresented groups appear on the Democratic ticket. One person is ground-breaking and history-making. Two people, by contrast, is an “affirmative action” choice and proof the Democrats are in thrall to “interest groups.” If Obama picks a woman, it will undoubtedly be cast as “appeasing” women’s groups who were ready to see Clinton break the ultimate glass ceiling. If Clinton picks a Black running mate, same thing, except replace NOW with the NAACP. This is what Derrick Bell calls the unspoken limit on affirmative action. Even if at first the diversity is applauded, at some point folks will start getting uncomfortable with too many women or people of color. A presidential ticket that doesn’t include a White male is virtually inconceivable, and it’s equally inconceivable that the media won’t make heavy note of that fact in the unlikely instance it comes into being.
And, despite the fact it really goes without saying, that white male will have to be straight and cisgendered and not different in ability or appearance, as well.

This is yet another example of why oppressed/marginalized groups are natural allies; prejudices against any of us work against all of us.

It's amazing, too, how many times you'll hear complaints about an exclusion of women, or gays, or people of color, from this event or that list or this level of leadership or wev, met with the old "minorities are well represented" chestnut, as if, as long as there's an Asian guy and a black guy, women shouldn't have anything about which to complain, or as long as there are women, gays shouldn't complain, or as long as there are gay men, lesbians shouldn't complain, or as long as there are white women, women of color shouldn't complain. Et cetera.

I recall noting to the organizer of a panel in which I was asked to participate on—I kid you not—academic diversity that the panel itself was rather problematic, given that it was comprised of seven straight white men, one gay white man…and me. And the organizer very earnestly said to me, "What do you mean? We've got a gay guy—and a woman!"

Oh well that's all right then!

Obviously, with only nine panelists, it wasn't like I was suggesting that a representative of every possible manifestation of human variation be included, but it was shocking that someone keen to organize a discussion about diversity would fail to understand that including minority viewpoints doesn't mean "Add a gay guy and a woman," as if the wholesale exclusion of people of color, for example, not only didn't matter but didn't matter because a gay guy and a woman were there, as if we could speak to the experience of people of color just because we're minorities. It was a very bizarre case of Not Getting It.

But at least he was trying—and he understood and took on board what I said when I explained the problem to him.

I've been in other situations where I've had less luck. I was once putting together a promotional brochure and suggested that the type of people represented using their product should be more diverse. There were maybe two dozen people in family groups indicated in the layout on this piece; I offered that we should bear in mind when choosing models, in addition to the standard white families as those used in all the previous marketing materials, we ought to represent families of color, a same-sex couple, a disabled parent or child in a family, and people of different size and stature.

After a pitiful discussion I won't recount, in which I eventually managed to convey that by representing "people of different size and stature" I meant fatties and dwarves, the guy for whom I was working exclaimed: "Jesus Christ! She wants me to turn this thing into a damn freak show!"

And, really, that's just the un-PC way of saying "in thrall to interest groups.” It's fine to have a token on the Democratic ticket—but let's not turn this thing into a freak show.

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